After attending the UK premiere of I,Tonya on the night of 15th of February, cast members Margot Robbie – who puts in a phenomenal performance as disgraced ex-figure skater Tonya Harding – Allison Janney – who puts in an equally astonishing performance as Tonya’s mother LaVona – are joined by director Craig Gillespie and screenwriter, Steven Rogers at the London Press Conference for the film.
Based on the unbelievable but true events, I, TONYA is a darkly comedic tale of American figure skater, Tonya Harding, and one of the most sensational scandals in sports history. Though Harding was the first American woman to complete a triple axel in competition, her legacy was forever defined by her association with an infamous, ill-conceived, and even more poorly executed attack on fellow Olympic competitor Nancy Kerrigan.
The film has elements of comedy as well as some brutal mental and physical scenes and features an iconic turn by Margot Robbie as the fiery Harding, a mustachioed Sebastian Stan as her impetuous ex-husband Jeff Gillooly, a tour-de-force performance from Allison Janney as her acid-tongued mother, LaVona Golden, and an original screenplay by Steven Rogers, Craig Gillespie’s I, TONYA is an absurd, irreverent, and piercing portrayal of Harding’s life and career in all of its unchecked––and checkered––glory.
Screenwriter and producer Steven Roger’s – who is mostly known for his rom-coms such as Kate and Leopold and P.S. I Love You – reveals how he wrote Allison Janney’s role as LaVona as a given that she would take the role. As well as how after watching a documentary on Tonya he wanted to get to the truth of the story. He also spoke about how easy it was to obtain the rights to her story.
“I happened to watch this documentary about Tonya Harding and there was some stuff in their about truth and the perception of truth and how we justify our actions. said Rogers I went to Tonya Harding’s website to see if her life rights where available. I called the number for her agent and it was a motel 6. I just thought, OK, I’m so in. I didn’t know if this would be a movie but it will definitely be a story. I tracked down Tonya Harding, and I tracked down Jeff Gillooly and I got them to agree to let me interview them. When I did, they just remembered everything completely different. That’s what gave me the idea to put everyone’s version of the truth up there“.
As well, as taking the title role, Margot Robbie also serves as a producer on the film. She stated how having the story of Harding so well documented was a liberating in making the film.
“It’s actually really liberating having the real-life people be so well-documented. I think that we tend to kind of draw it in and not want to exaggerate when we are portraying something on screen. It happens that real-life happens to be a lot more insane than what we do in the films most of the time. I think if we told Allison to put on a fur coat and have bowl haircut and have a bird on her shoulder, maybe she thought we were pushing it or something. But when you have the actual footage of LaVona, wearing exactly that and saying those exact things, it is kind of liberating“.
Allison Janney is probably one of the most underrated actresses of our time. A tour de force in whatever role she plays from roles in The West Wing to Juno and many many more. Playing Tonya’s mother LaVona she wanted to unveil not just a brutally pushy mother but a woman who is quite complex.
“The stakes were very high, things tend to be funny whether its a drama or a comedy, the stakes are very high. I think LaVona wanted her daughter to be successful in the figure skating world. She wanted to know why the community didn’t embrace her daughter. She was enraged and I had to ground her, in reality, to flush her out so she wasn’t just a monster. She was a woman who had probably been disappointed at every turn in her life, probably a woman who was abused. I didn’t get to speak to the real women but I just approached her as any other role as an actress you have to make it make sense to you, make her choices make sense to you. Why would she behave like this, which was really fun to do. Then the fun comes out of the different juxtapositions of the different viewpoints smashed up next to each other, it’s just shocking to see LaVona through a knife at her daughter and cut to her saying what family doesn’t have their ups and downs“.
Listen to the full press conference below.
You can watch the trailer for the film below.
I, Tonya triple axes into cinemas February 23rd.